Trans people: your right to change your name

Record changes for trans people

The law throughout the United Kingdom permits people to change their name at any time and without any special permission or process. This applies to everyone, including people who change their gender.

In its simplest form anyone can change their name simply by announcing that fact to everyone whom they deal with.

In practice, many authorities (e.g. banks) require something more tangible in order to alter the records they keep about you.

Once upon a time the favoured approach was by so-called 'Deed Poll'. Nowadays, people usually use a legal instrument called a 'Statutory Declaration'.

The best time to formalise a name change like this is when you first commence living full time in your new ('acquired') gender role.

The Statutory Declaration process

Most high street solicitors can help you to draw up a Statutory Declaration. There is a standard form of words in which you formally renounce the use of your previous name and declare that you henceforth intend to use the new one for all purposes. You sign the declaration in both names and the solicitor puts an official stamp on the document.

The Statutory Declaration process usually takes less than 15 minutes and is not expensive. Afterwards you can show the declaration to banks, building societies, educational institutions, the Department of Work and Pensions, Inland Revenue, etc... and ask them to alter their records accordingly. They can only apply the same restrictions as they would for anyone else doing the same thing. To apply any different rules because you are changing your gender would be direct sex discrimination.

Specific processes for certain agencies

Some organisations have specific procedures for processing name changes relating to gender transition. These procedures have often been in place for 30-40 years and are not negatively affected in any way by the Gender Recognition Act.

  • The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) will alter your name on their records and will issue a new plastic National Insurance Number Card with that name on it. They don’t alter anyone’s National Insurance number under any circumstances. There is no gender indication within the number and therefore no point to do so. A change of name on its’ own does not alter the rest of your national insurance / tax computer records, as you will remain a member of your birth gender until such time as you successfully apply for legal recognition. The Gender Recognition process issues instructions to the DWP and Inland Revenue to make appropriate changes at that time.
  • The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will change their records of your name and issue you with an updated driving license on written request. In this case the procedure, which has been used successfully for many years, includes the issue of an amended driver number. Your driver number includes a gender marker. This is updated to show your new social gender so that anyone inspecting your driving license will see a code that concurs with your name and the way you present.
  • The process with passports has changed slightly over recent years because of a greater need to prevent fraud. However, the policy of the Passport Agency has always been to facilitate issue of a replacement passport when the applicant has changed their name and social gender role, backed by a letter from a medical professional to confirm that the change is for gender reassignment and intended to be permanent. As the process for any change of photo and details involves an interview it is best to enquire with your local passport office about what you should do and the evidence you need to supply.

Processes like these were in place before the Gender Recognition Act and remain unaltered by the introduction of the formal legal recognition process.

Other organisations such as employers, educational establishments, registration bodies, your local NHS GP, hospitals, utility companies, and service suppliers such as banks should likewise be prepared to change your details on request. Some may request evidence in the form of a statutory declaration of your name change, but that is all.

Gender Recognition Certificates

Some organisations may mistakenly believe that they are not supposed to change their records to show your new name and appropriate title (Mr, Miss, etc..) until you have obtained a Gender Recognition Certificate. This is incorrect and in most cases would constitute discrimination.

Furthermore, nobody is entitled to see or record the details of a Gender Recognition Certificate if you have one. If someone requires proof of your legal gender then you could show them your birth certificate.

The Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) exists only for the Gender Recognition Panel to instruct the Registrar of Births to make a new entry in their register, from which a birth certificate can be drawn. The document states clearly that it has no other purpose. Recording sight of a GRC would automatically lead to a breach of Section 22 of the Gender Recognition Act, since sight of the record by any other person would constitute an unlawful disclosure of protected information. Officials should therefore be gently advised against making up rules involving GRCs.

For more information about the Gender Recognition Act, go to 'What the law says'

Last Updated: 19 Oct 2009